Main peculiarity of the voting during the fifth presidential elections is not the distribution of votes, but a low turnout. According to IISEPS data, in 2010 87% of voters took part in the election. In 2015 this share amounted to 70.2%, i.e. it dropped by 16.8 points.

Trying to explain this significant drop by apathy, which suddenly gripped Belarusian society, would be wrong. In October 2010 (two months prior the election) 73.2% of respondents declared their readiness to take part in the voting. As it follows from Table 1, this level of declarative electoral activity is normal in absence of mobilization campaign. And there was no mobilization campaign in 2015, so it was reflected in the turnout.

Table 1. Dynamics of answering the question: “Are you going to vote in presidential election in October 2015?”, %

Variant of answer 01’15 03’15 06’15 09’15 12’15*
Sure yes/Rather yes 71 73 72 73 70.2
Sure no/Rather no 25 22 22 24 29.1
DA/NA 4 5 6 3 0.7

* In December this question was asked as follows: “Did you vote in the last presidential election?”

All previous mobilization campaigns were traditionally based on self-reports of the power. Dynamics of salaries in dollar equivalent was used as the main indication of success of the Belarusian model: 2001– $ 100, 2006 – $ 250, 2010 – $ 500. According to the resolution of the IV All-Belarusian People’s Assembly, planned salary for 2015 should have amounted to $ 1000, but the real figure is less than $ 400.

New reality made the power amend the electoral campaign. As a result, instead of another All-Belarusian People’s Assembly there was “A Prayer for Belarus”. Official turnout wasn’t affected by this innovation: 2010 – 90.65%, 2015 – 87.2%.

Coordinators of the electoral campaign used the “Prayer” as the final accord in intimidating people. Standing on the porch of the Church of All Saints, A. Lukashenko declared that he had recently seen various insinuations and manipulations coming from Belarusian citizens “trying to bring to Belarus what happens in Ukraine”. “When there is no peace, nothing else matters”, – said the head of state, – “neither foodstuff, nor closes, nor its’ prices”.

Thus the power declined all responsibility for improvement of life standard of the population. When motherland is in jeopardy, only provokers and public enemies remind of price hike and decrease of salaries and pensions.

As it follows from Table 2, policy of intimidation justified itself. Variant of answer “Peace and stability” is beyond competition. Naturally, if there had been no preconditioning of Belarusians by Russian TV channels since March 2014, this result would have never been achieved.

Table 2. Dynamics of answering the question: “Which problems will you consider as the most important ones when taking a decision for whom you will vote in the next presidential elections?”, % (more than one answer is possible)

Variant of answer 04’06 12’10 09’15 12’15
Peace and stability 47.6 34.1
Overall quality of life 43.9 24.5 37.0 27.0
Price hike 19.2 24.7 30.0 14.7
Jobs 19.9 15.0 20.3 10.1
Healthcare improvement 18.2 13.6 15.5 7.2
Democracy and independence of Belarus 21.5 17.5 15.0 9.9
Payout of pensions 16.3 12.0 8.0 7.9
Relations with the West 6.2 7.1 6.9 1.9
Relations with Russia 7.4 3.9 5.8 4.4
Corruption is society 8.6 4.7 4.4 3.2
Education 7.4 6.3 3.5 2.5
Freedom of belief 0.9 1.0 2.0 0.6
Criminality 5.2 4.2 1.9 1.2
Threat of terrorism 5.9 3.6
Demand for freedom in Belarus 9.0 9.7

Two months after the voting topicality of most problems, influencing voters’ decision, has naturally decreased.

Giving up electoral mobilization did not mean giving up forcing people to vote early. But mobilization effect can be achieved by propaganda, while forcing needs administrative pressure upon social groups, depending on the state (state employees, students and so on). Efficiency of this pressure is illustrated by the results of Table 3. Despite the significant turnout drop, the share of early voters remained at the same level as in 2010.

Table 3. Dynamics of answering the question: “Did you vote on the scheduled election day or during the early voting?”, %

Variant of answer 04’06 12’10 12’15
During early voting 25.7 19.8 19.3
On the scheduled day of voting 65.8 67.8 49.6
NA 8.5 12.4 31.1
  1. Lukashenko’s supporters make the main input into the turnout, and this is not only due to the Soviet tradition of “discharging civic duty”. The head of state supporters vote for a real candidate, and they perceive this candidate as theirs.

According to the results of Table 4, electoral activity of A. Lukashenko’s supporters was twice as big in 2015 as of his opponents – 84.6% vs. 43.4%. In 2010 “coefficient of electoral advantage” amounted to 1.2. It’s easy to notice that in absence of electoral mobilization decrease of total turnout happened at the expense of A. Lukashenko’s opponents. Their passive behavior was also influenced by the campaign aimed at discrediting T. Korotkevich, organized by several oppositional structures.

Table 4. Dynamics of answering the question: “If you voted in the election, did you vote on the scheduled election day or during the early voting?”, %

Variant of answer 2010 2015
Trust A. Lukashenko Don’t trust A. Lukashenko Trust A. Lukashenko Don’t trust A. Lukashenko
During early voting 25.1 12.8 23.5 15.1
On the scheduled day of voting 68.5 65.1 61.1 38.3
NA 6.4 22.1 15.4 46.6
All voters 93.6 77.9 84.6 43.4

Total turnout decrease also happened at the expense of low activity of voters on the scheduled day of voting, and this is another confirmation of administrative resource efficiency in organizing early voting.

“Homo sovieticus” in his post-Soviet variation continues to perceive voting as a duty. 56% of A. Lukashenko’s supporters, 12.6% of his opponents, and 35.1% of respondents, who hadn’t determined their attitude to the head of state, think so. The result is that 35.1% of respondents perceive participation in elections as their civic duty (Table 5).

Table 5. Distribution of answers to the question: “What was the main reason for your participation in the last presidential election?”, % (more than one answer is possible)

Variant of answer %
This is my duty 35.1
I wanted changes 12.8
I wanted to maintain the current state of things 9.3
I liked candidate’s program 6.6
My friends and family voted, so I voted too 6.3
My employer (administration of educational institution) demanded me 3.3
I was inspired by a political party 1.5
I earned a reward (from employer or administration of educational institution) 1.4
Other 1.4
Don’t know 0.8

As for respondents, who voted hoping for changes, their attitude to A. Lukashenko is inverse: 3.2% – trust, 23.1% – don’t trust, 13.6% – don’t know (12.8% of all respondents).

Table 6 results demonstrate the reasons why 29.8 potential electors didn’t take part in the voting. Respondents could choose more than one reason, but few of them did it, because the total of answers exceeded the share of those who didn’t vote by 2.2% only. Boycott was mentioned by 4%. Such is opposition’s ability to influence directly electors’ behavior.

Table 6. Distribution of answers to the question: “Why didn’t you vote in the last presidential election?”, % (more than one answer is possible)

Variant of answer %
Voting will not change Belarus, that is why I didn’t vote 7.7
I was too busy 7.6
I wasn’t impressed by any of the candidates 7.3
I’ve decided to protests by boycotting elections 4.0
No one who I know voted, so I didn’t vote too 1.6
I forgot to vote 1.5
Other 1.6
Don’t know 0.7

The sum of positive feelings after the election (expressed with such words as “hope”, “enthusiasm” and “inspiration”) amounts to 50% (Table 7). The word “hope” is beyond competition – 36.3%. It coincides with the share of those who voted for A. Lukashenko, and this is quite logical. The victory of the candidate you voted for should bring you hope.

Table 7. Distribution of answers to the question: “Which of the following words describe best your feelings after the last presidential election?”, % (more than one answer is possible)

Variant of answer %
Hope 36.3
Uncertainty 14.5
Resignation 11.3
Pessimism 11.2
Despondency 10.5
Anger 10.2
Enthusiasm 8.6
Confusion 5.6
Inspiration 5.1
Don’t know 8.7

The range of words offered to respondents expressed a wide range of negative feelings too – from uncertainty to anger. The sum of negative feeling amounted to 63.3%. Among the most popular words were “uncertainty”, “resignation”, “pessimism” and “despondency”. There is no better illustration for the state of Belarusian oppositional society after, as A. Lukashenko said: “Our people once again demonstrated to the world extraordinary political culture, unity in front of external threats, and independence of opinion”.

Answering the question “Who did you vote for in the last elections of President of Republic of Belarus?”, 35.6% of respondents chose A. Lukashenko. This is exactly the same share of respondents that answered positively the question of Table 8. This testifies on the high level of respondents’ sincerity while answering the questions of the survey.

Table 8. Dynamics of answering the question: “Did the candidate you voted for become the President?”, %

Variant of answer 10’01 04’06 12’10 12’15
Yes 50.4 61.4 49.6 35.6
No 35.4 30.5 32.8 22.7
NA 14.2 8.1 17.6 41.7

It looks like nothing can split Belarusian society as much as the attitude to the official results of election. In December 2015 the share of respondents, who considered that last presidential election was free and just, exceeded the share of those who disagreed with this by factor of 13 – 77.9% vs. 6% (Table 9). Peculiarity of the last election is a high share of respondents who didn’t answer our questions. On average it amounted to 25.6%. From our point of view this is a result of conducting electoral campaign in the “soft” mode. The power is interested in making up with the West, so they tried to carry out the electoral campaign according to international norms. Of course we are talking about form and not about contents.

Table 9. Dynamics of answering the question: “Do you think that presidential elections were free and just?”, %

Variant of answer 04’06 12’10 12’15 Attitude to A. Lukashenko
Trust Don’t trust
Yes 57.9 54.4 41.4 77.9 6.0
No 32.9 32.3 33.0 4.5 66.8
NA 9.2 13.3 25.6 17.2 27.2

The same question formulated in a “softer” form increased the number of positive answers (“completely/rather valid”) up to 52.1%. At the same time the sum of negative answers (“rather/completely faked”) didn’t change and amounted to 34.4% (Table 10). This happened at the expense of double-fold decrease of respondents who didn’t give an answer.

Table 10. Dynamics of answering the question: “Do you think that the results of the presidential elections, published by the Central Election Commission” are valid or faked?”, %

Variant of answer 04’06 12’10 12’15
Completely valid 38.1 32.7 24.6
Rather valid 25.6 29.9 27.5
Rather faked 14.1 16.2 25.2
Completely faked 14.9 13.2 9.2
DA/NA 7.3 8.0 13.5

Such a significant dependency between positive answers and formulation of questions testifies on the fact that respondents are not sure of their evaluations.

  1. Gudkov, director of Levada-Center, says: “Under the condition of a social split “electoral democracy” per se (without corresponding cultural, moral, human basics and institutional frames) can only bring to the surface the most popular and widespread (and thus the most conservative and dark) layers, develop and fix the simplest of their perceptions and interests”.

As December survey demonstrated it, 58.8% of voters think that the candidate they voted for expresses their interests. Interests of Belarusian “majority” are interests of poor people depending on state’s crumbs. Third decade running these interests join with the interests of authoritarian power, and together they prevent Belarus from entering the world of civilized countries.